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Aramark debuts programs to assist clients through pandemic restrictions

Pop-up groceries, tech solutions and enhanced cleaning/sanitation protocols were among the contract management company’s responses to the COVID-19 crisis in a challenging year.

Aramark’s U.S. Food & Support Services unit saw a 25.6% decline in revenues in its 2020 fiscal year compared to 2019, led by a 39.9% drop in the Sports/Leisure/Corrections unit and a 30.9% decline in Business & Industry, both markets obviously hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic that hit in the second half of Aramark’s fiscal year, which curtailed professional sports seasons, reduced or ceased operations at college and K-12 locations and had many employees of corporate dining accounts working from home. Meanwhile, the Healthcare sector was also impacted by the divestiture of the HCT healthcare technology unit, which had accounted for about 4.3% of the business previously.

When the crisis first hit last spring, Aramark responded with several initiatives designed to assist front-line workers in the healthcare industry, establishing over a hundred pop-up grocery stores in hospitals to serve as one-stop shops for doctors, nurses and hospital staff where they could grab necessities on their way home.

Meanwhile, the NYC Healthcare Heroes citywide philanthropic program launched by the Debra and Leon Black Family in partnership with Aramark, the American Red Cross, Robin Hood and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to support NYC workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, delivered more than 400,000 care packages with more than 15 million products between April and August, including over 300,000 care packages of shelf-stable food, household cleaning and personal care products and over-the-counter medicine and over 100,000 boxes of fresh fruit and nuts to the professionals who served New York City during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, it also donating an additional $300,000 worth of food and supplies to local food pantries that partner with NYC Health + Hospitals.

Among operational initiatives the company undertook to deal with the issues raised by the pandemic and its effects on customers, clients and regulators were the EverSafe program that incorporated best practices for the safe reopening and sustainable management of client locations and the AIWX (Aramark Intelligent Workplace Experience) Connect building and asset management solution designed for owners and operators, to help them deliver a safer and better performing workplace experience.

EverSafe, developed in conjunction with Jefferson Health in accordance with recommendations established by the CDC, the World Health Organization, the National Restaurant Association and other leading public health organizations, was incorporated into Aramark’s procedures for reopening colleges last fall. It mandated protocols such as increased and intensified cleaning/sanitizing, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, frequent hand washing, plexiglass barriers, enhanced training/signage/behavioral “nudges,” health checks/temperature monitoring, social distancing and the use contactless operation technology as much as possible.

To limit physical interactions while purchasing food, Aramark expanded its Quick Eats Grab & Go program to include a full offering of hot and cold items for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack occasions. The menu items are prepared fresh on site and held at the proper serving temperature so guests can pick up items at their convenience.

The company also leveraged technology solutions such as the Mashgin self-checkout module and the Good Uncle app-based on-demand food delivery service and debuted an automated retail concept called QuickEats Close Convenience that won an FM Best Concept Award and looks to be the kind of tech-forward solution many onsite locations will require.

In addition, Aramark worked with its regional produce suppliers to make fruit and vegetable boxes available to college students within existing retail spaces and expanded its c-store portfolio with the option to include enhanced grocery offerings. Meanwhile, the Local Restaurant Row concept features rotating local restaurants coming to campus to boost a sense of community, support local business and combat menu fatigue.

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